There is probably some joke or pun to be made about the 1001 spikes but I'm coming up empty. So I'll just say that it looks like the spike maker counted up the order wrong and ...
Ok I have nothing. Luckily Nicalis have something quite special in this platformer from the affectionately named "♥♥♥♥ing troll ♥♥♥ game" genre.
The gameplay is simple enough (with one oddity, which I will get to). You enter a level, you avoid traps and make some jumps while also shooting knives at the occasional enemy. You find the key and perhaps the hidden mask object and make your way to the exit. You then repeat this process through longer and more difficult stages until you run out of things to do. Along the way expect plenty of water, fire, snakes, scorpions, crushing blocks, spikes and even more spikey spikes. There isn't anything particularly original here if you have played similar games in the past (stretching a long way back) but what is here has been proven to work.
The controls are a little strange in that you have two jump buttons, one "high" and one "low". This saves you having to judge how hard to press a button (high enough to clear a spike, but low enough to avoid the fire above?) but it can get a bit fiddly at times. Personally I always found myself using the high jump unless a situation specifically seemed to call for it. In these cases, such as jumping on a block without triggering an arrow trap it was handy, but I'm still not sold on the concept. Still, everything works and you can aim your jumps properly and it doesn't feel floaty. If anything, jumping and shooting fails a bit more often than it should, when trying to line up a small object like an arrow (when you are standing shots line up perfectly). This isn't a big deal though, so in this regard the controls get a solid pass.
To complement the tight controls, the level design is all important in a game like this and 1001 Spikes doesn't let you down. The levels all seem lengthy but not "too long" and there is a good variety in the challenges. For example, one level will have you carefully negotiating spiked passages, waiting for just the right moment to advance forward. The next level will require you to make a series of fast paced jumps as everything falls down around you. Levels feel unique, despite reusing a lot of assets and the effort required to pass them should make them memorable long after.
That is, if you don't give up on it. The magic of "♥♥♥♥ing troll ♥♥♥ game" is in how much they troll you and how much of it you can take. Think you have finished the level? Well you forgot about that block, right at the end which will drop on your head without warning. This will kill you, forcing you to restart the level (no checkpoints here!) in an increasingly infuriating manner. So where does it sit on the troll meter? Above Super Meat Boy, some obstacles you just can't avoid. But it is also well below something like I want to Be The Boshy. Most traps give you a split second of warning, such as the tips of spikes showing before they impale you. Because of this, most deaths (but not all) feel like they are a result of you not paying close enough attention. The game does a good job of training you too. Chance are if you find a good place to rest while you evaluate the next section of a level? There are spikes on that block.
So you'll die, but you'll learn and progress always feels achievable (or you can skip levels, so it isn't a big drama). Note that you do technically have a life limit (x1000) but 1ups are easily farmable by redoing short stages and finding the bonus pick up. So 1001 Spikes is tough but just fair enough (think 1-5 deaths on an easy stage, 20-30 on a hard one), which will hopefully not put off too many people.
Having said that, one of the most difficult challenges the game offers is getting through the story parts without hitting "skip". They are long, stretching on forever and the text forwards far too slowly. I kind of enjoy the ironic tone to the writing, but little of importance is said and there doesn't seem to be any need for a story at all. Rest assured you can safely skip it and get back to the spikes.
To round out the package, the game offers other arcade style modes which can be played in 4 player local coop (sorry online fans). These include challenges such as climbing a high tower and competitive modes like holding an urn the longest, which remind me strongly of old NES or even C64 titles and other treats like an extra difficult tribute to a past game. Rest assured too that the coins you collect in those modes are not completely going to waste.
Now I'm not a big coop gamer (people who are will love playing through the main game with a friend), so these extras are not necessarily for me, but they do make an easy purchase decision even easier. Further the game provides a wide variety of unlockable characters, each with their own abilities (longer jumps, double jumps etc). This lets you tackles the levels again with different approaches and helps alleviate any concerns about the number of available levels (although there are enough anyway, without spoiling anything, probably a lot more than you think!).
In terms of presentation, 1001 is more functional than impressive, but everything does the job. The music is suitably excellent and the sound effects inoffensive. If anything the menu systems and cutscenes could use an extra coat of polish, but as mentioned before they are best skipped anyway, so perhaps skimping on them was the best approach after all.
I really like 1001 Spikes. I realise it will not be for everybody, given the brutal style. But it is just accessible enough that everybody should give it a go, just in case they get the right level of sadistic fun out of it.
Just keep an eye out for that 1001'th spike. That'll be the one that gets you or ... yeah still nothing.